Fresno, Calif. -- A man charged with slaughtering nine of his children and stacking the bodies in his home went on trial Thursday, with prosecutors portraying him as a controlling figure who raped some of his daughters and beat the youngsters with baseball bats.
Marcus Wesson also demanded that his children study the Bible for hours a day and forced his daughters to cover their heads at all times and wear dresses, prosecutor Lisa Gamoian said in her opening statement.
Wesson could get the death penalty if convicted of murdering the children, ages 1 to 25. Gamoian said all but one were shot through the right eye with a .22-caliber handgun. The 1-year-old was shot in the left eye.
Wesson's attorney, Pete Jones, has argued in court papers that his client's daughter Sebhrenah shot the victims and then killed herself. Jones said Wesson did not have gunshot residue on his hands when he was arrested.
Wesson, 57, was the only one to emerge alive last March from the modest one-story house after a tense, hours-long standoff with police. Officers found the nine bodies piled in a bloody tangle and 10 white coffins stacked against the living room walls.
On the day of the killings, several relatives had tried to remove the children from the Wesson household, Gamoian said. The conflict escalated, and they called police for help, crying hysterically and saying that Wesson was dangerous.
One of the women, Sofina Solorio, 28, saw her child briefly before she was shoved aside and Wesson retreated into the house.
"That's the last time she saw her son alive," Gamoian said.